A history of Chinese literature
This s the first attempt made in any language, including Chinese, to produce a history of Chinese literature. Native scholars, with their endless critiques and appreciations of individual works, do not seem ever to have contemplated anything of the kind, realising, no doubt, the utter hopelessness, from a Chinese point of view, of achieving even comparative success in a general historical survey of the subject.
The voluminous character of literature which was already in existence some six centuries before the Christian era, and has run on uninterruptedly until the present date, may well have given pause to writers aiming at completeness.
The foreign student, however, is on a totally different footing. It may be said without offence that a work which would be inadequate to the requirements of a native public, may properly be submitted to English readers as an introduction into the great field which lies beyond.
Acting upon the suggestion of Mr Gosse, to whom I am otherwise indebted for many valuable hints, I have devoted a large portion of this book to translation, thus enabling the Chinese author, so far as translation will allow, to speak for himself. I have also added, here and there, remarks by native critics, that the reader may be able to form an idea of the point of view from which the Chinese judge their own productions. It only remains to be stated that the translations, with the exception of a few passages from Legge's "Chinese Classics," in each case duly acknowledged, are my own.
The date of the beginning of all things has been nicely calculated by Chinese chronologers. There was, first of all, a period when Nothing existed, though some enthusiasts have attempted to deal with a period antecedent even to that. Gradually Nothing took upon itself the form and limitations of Unity, represented by a point at the centre of a circle.
Thus there was a Great Monad, a First Cause, an Aura, a Zeitgeist, or whatever one may please to call it. After countless ages, spent apparently in doing nothing, this Monad split into Two Principles, one active, the other passive; one positive, the other negative; light and darkness; male and female. The interaction of these Two Principles resulted in the production of all things, as we see them in the universe around us, 2,269,381 years ago. Such is the cosmogony of the Chinese in a nutshell.
The more sober Chinese historians, however, are content, to begin with, a sufficiently mythical emperor, who reigned only 2800 years before the Christian era. The practice of agriculture, the invention of wheeled vehicles, and the simpler arts of early civilisation are generally referred to this period; but to the dispassionate European student it is a period of myth and legend: in fact, we know very little about it. Neither do we know much, in the historical sense, of the numerous rulers whose names and dates appear in the chronology of the succeeding two thousand years. It is not indeed until we reach the eighth century B.C. that anything like history can be said to begin.
For reasons which will presently be made plain, the sixth century B.C. is a convenient starting point for the student of Chinese literature. China was then confined to a comparatively small area, lying for the most part between the Yellow River on the north and the river Yang-tsze on the south. No one knows where the Chinese came from. Some hold the fascinating theory that they were emigrants from Accadia in the ancient kingdom of Babylonia; others have identified them with the lost tribes of Israel. No one seems to think they can possibly have originated in the fertile plains where they are now found.
It appears indeed to be an ethnological axiom that every race must have come from somewhere outside its own territory. However that may be, the China of the eighth century B.C. consisted of a number of Feudal States, ruled by nobles owning allegiance to a Central State, at the head of which was a king. The outward tokens of subjection were homage and tribute; but after all, the allegiance must have been more nominal than real, each State being practically an independent kingdom. This condition of things was the cause of much mutual jealousy, and often of bloody warfare, several of the States hating one another quite as cordially as Athens and Sparta at their best.
BOOK THE FIRST THE FEUDAL PERIOD (B.C. 600-200)
I. LEGENDARY AGES EARLY CHINESE CIVILISATION ORIGIN OF WRITING 3
II. CONFUCIUS THE FIVE CLASSICS 7
III. THE FOUR BOOKS MENCIUS 32
IV. MISCELLANEOUS WRITERS 43
V. POETRY INSCRIPTIONS 50
VI. TAOISM THE " TAO-TE-CHING " 56
BOOK THE SECOND THE HAN DYNASTY
(B.C. 200-A.D. 2OO)
i. THE FIRST EMPEROR" THE BURNING OF THE BOOKS MISCELLANEOUS WRITERS 77
II. POETRY 97
III. HISTORY LEXICOGRAPHY 102
IV. BUDDHISM 110
BOOK THE THIRD MINOR DYNASTIES (A.D. 200-600)
I. POETRY MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE 1 19
II. CLASSICAL SCHOLARSHIP 137
BOOK THE FOURTH THE TANG DYNASTY (A.D. 600-900)
I. POETRY 143
II. CLASSICAL AND GENERAL LITERATURE 1^9
BOOK THE FIFTH THE SUNG DYNASTY (A.D. 900-1200)
I. THE INVENTION OF BLOCK-PRINTING 2O9
II. HISTORY CLASSICAL AND GENERAL LITERATURE . . . 212
III. POETRY 232
IV. DICTIONARIES ENCYCLOPEDIAS MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 238
BOOK THE SIXTH THE MONGOL DYNASTY
I. MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE POETRY 247
II. THE DRAMA 256
III. THE NOTEL 276
BOOK THE SEVENTH THE MING DYNASTY
I. MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE MATERIA MEDICA ENCYCLO-
PEDIA OF AGRICULTURE 2QI
PEDIA OF AGRICULTURE 2QI
II. NOVELS AND PLAYS 309
III. POETRY 329
BOOK THE EIGHTH THE MANCHU DYNASTY
I. THE "LIAO CHAl" THE "HUNG LOU MENG " . . . . 337
II. THE EMPERORS K*ANG HSI AND CH'lEN LUNG .... 385
III. CLASSICAL AND MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE POETRY . . 39!
IV. WALL LITERATURE JOURNALISM WIT AND HUMOUR PRO-
VERBS AND MAXIMS 425
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 441
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